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Here you can find a range of issues discussed such as education, equality, health and justice. If you would like to comment on my blog, please be respectful and avoid the use of foul or abusive language.

Women Working for Free for 21 Working Days.  (9th December 2016)

Since 10th November women have now worked the equivalent of 21 working days for free due to the ‘gender pay gap’.  Although this is one day later than last year, I can find little cause for celebration that women continue to be paid less than men even when doing the same job. It is estimated by the Fawcett Society that the 13.9% pay gap between men and women in the UK will take 60 years to close, assuming of course that the current disparity does not increase.

The ‘gender pay gap’ does not reveal the many other ways women lose out in the workplace. Women are more likely than men to be employed in part-time roles and tend to be socialised into taking on unpaid roles such as caring for children and elderly relatives. In fact, according to an article in Fortune magazine by Melinda Gates, globally women are estimated to spend an average of 4.5 hours per day on unpaid work, with the difference even greater in the developing world – in India for example women are thought to undertake 6 hours of unpaid work each day with men carrying out less than one hour. The tendency for women to be engaged in unpaid domestic work starts early in life – American girls typically spend around 2 hours more on chores than boys and are paid 15% less for doing so. Moreover, when women do participate in the world of work, they tend to be concentrated in low paid and lower skilled roles often referred to as the ‘Five C’s’ – cleaning, catering, clerical, cashiering (retail) and caring work.

An article in the Independent newspaper on 23rd November claiming that ‘nasty’ women get paid more offers little consolation. Telling women to alter their behavior to be more aggressive in order to be paid more is frankly insulting. Women and men bring different skills and experiences to the workplace and these should be valued equally. Reducing, and ultimately eliminating, the gender pay gap will not be achieved simply by instructing women to behave differently. Instead, a fundamental shift in how we view women and work is required. For example, increased opportunities for flexible working practices could be one possible solution – unaffordable childcare costs is believed to be the main reason why so many women are working part-time. In addition, a recognition that raising a family counts as work and extending the forthcoming policy for companies with over 250 staff to reveal the difference in pay between male and female employees to all companies regardless of size would go some way to narrow the gender pay gap.

We also need to consider the role of education in reducing income inequality between men and women. Although some progress has been made towards getting more women to study STEM subjects after years of young women being pushed towards ‘traditional’ female careers, there is still a significant gender divide – according to Equate Scotland just 5% of engineers are women. There is zero evidence to suggest that women are any less competent than their male counterparts yet women consistently are found to be absent from the higher paying STEM industries and less likely to be in management roles across all sectors. Until we start viewing women’s work as equal to men’s work, not only will women continue to be paid less, but our economic growth will not reach its full potential. Therefore, the responsibility is on us all to create a more equal world for women so we no longer have to say things like ‘Prepare your daughter for working life – give her less pocket money than your son’.

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